Cracking the code — what is the Internet of Things?

Cracking the code — what is the Internet of Things?

Cracking the code — what is the Internet of Things?

For self-confessed ‘tech nerds’, the Electronic Systems and Internet of Things (IoT) major is like that puzzle piece you’ve spent hours trying to find. There’s definitely a piece that fits, it’s just a matter of finding it.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is an enticing, yet vague, term for a concept that an average person might not be able to define. It will likely have an impact on them whether they realise it or not. Simply put, IoT describes objects that connect to the Internet without human intervention. These objects could include your smart watch, the handy Thermomix, driverless cars, or wearable devices like the FitBit. The list is ever growing and the world is looking for passionate people who want to make a difference using Internet of Things and smart technologies of the future.

Michael Basham is one of those people. Studying a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours), majoring in Electronic Systems and Internet of Things with JCU , he is in his first year and admits that if this degree did not exist, he would not be at uni right now. It is exactly what he wants to do.

At the age of 24 years, Michael has been in the workforce since he graduated from high school. “I was working 60 – 70 hours a week in real estate. It was great money, but I realised that it was not what I wanted to do,” he says. “I figured out that I want to do something to empower myself to make a positive impact on the world.”

He looked around at what different universities offered and stumbled upon JCU’s Electronic Systems and the Internet of Things. The combination of the software skills taught in traditional Information Technology and the hardware skills of traditional electronic engineering is a perfect match, plus, don’t forget the much-needed data analytics skills.

“It is exactly what I want to do and now is the time to do it — it’s the only degree of its kind in Australia. There are so many opportunities for me to make a difference at the end of my degree. I’m especially interested in smart technology and its applications in health,” says Michael. have simplified what can seem like an overwhelming and confusing topic to most.

After spending some time in the workforce, it’s only natural to expect that going back to university would be challenging.

“It was a struggle getting back into the mentality of studying. It’s much different to working, it’s more of a mental drain. Learning how to learn again, taking notes and doing this effectively was a challenge,” he says. “But I feel like I’m a lot better off having had the real life experience and knowing what hard work looks like. If I had gone to university straight from high school, I don’t think I would’ve had my priorities right.”

The core courses in first year can be tough, but Michael speaks highly of the support offered at JCU. “In Cairns, there are small class sizes compared to some of my friends who study down south and have 400 people in a lecture,” says Michael. “Here the support structure is so apparent. For example, I hadn’t studied physics before and having the support of my lecturers was amazing.”

Big things are on the agenda for Internet of Things

Early 2017, JCU and HUAWEI announced their partnership and launched the first Narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT) research facility in Australia. The facility consists of research labs and workshop spaces enabling students to build innovative and practical solutions to real-world problems using the world-class NB-IoT standard.

JCU’s Professor Wei Xiang is the head of discipline, and key facilitator of the degree and the partnership. He is excited for what the future brings and how having access to cutting-edge equipment will shape innovative, job-ready graduates.

“We’re not only teaching students theoretical concepts, we’re giving them access to a new industry standard,” he says. “The facility also allows the University’s researchers to forge ahead in research streams such as smart reef monitoring, smart healthcare, smart agriculture, and rainforest eco-monitoring.”

In addition to having such powerful facilities readily available, students have the opportunity to apply for the HUAWEI Seeds of the Future program. The program is two-fold. Part one, ‘Seeds for the Future: Industry-Focused Education and Training Program’, is a three-day, HUAWEI sponsored, intensive in Sydney available to first year Engineering students. Part two, ‘Seeds for the Future: China Experience’, targets second year IoT Engineering students and offers an all-expenses paid, three-week work experience program in China.

As soon as applications opened, Michael applied for the Seeds for the Future: Industry-Focused Education and Training Program. He was one of the five students to be accepted and in July 2017 was off to Sydney for three days of immersing himself in IoT.

“The Seeds for the Future program fuelled my desire to learn more about IoT,” Michael says. “It confirmed my belief that the reason I am studying is to learn about the Internet of Things. The passion and excitement for this field was contagious, and meeting and networking with other students around Australia was an added bonus.”

Internet of Things student experimenting with sensors

HUAWEI Human Resources Director with JCU students at Seeds of the Future program in Sydney

Top image: IoT has given Michael a clear focus on where he wants to lead his future. Bottom image: JCU students (Michael, second from left), with Brian Hoppe (far right), Human Resources Director, Huawei, and Lisa Connors (far left), Manager Corporate Relations and Programs, Huawei.

The program gives university students a fantastic opportunity to listen to and engage with leading experts. Chief Executive Officers from across the industry spoke about areas of growth and what the future of IoT looks like to them.

“Networking with the CEOs from huge tech companies was really exciting and definitely the highlight of the program,” says Michael. “It’s given me so much more interest in the actual applications of IoT. I’ve now bought a little micro controller kit so I can start playing around with sensors and test my knowledge over the study break. I’ve even started a little notebook — every time I hear, or have, an idea, I write it down.”

Michael’s passion for smart tech is infectious. Find out more if you want to learn more about Electronic Systems and the Internet of Things.

Applications for The Seeds of the Future: China Experience program have now closed. Stay tuned for which JCU students will be heading on an all-expenses-paid trip to China. Check out the Seeds of the Future program for more information.

Feature image: Katherine Kokkonen

Published 3 Apr 2020

Featured JCU researcher

Prof Wei Xiang
Prof Wei Xiang
Prof Wei Xiang holds the position of Adjunct Professor within the College of Science & Engineering at James Cook University (JCU) on the Cairns campus.